Why this one? What am I waiting for? How much longer? Friends are wary of being caught with me. It's worse if there's alcohol. Obsessive? That won't do. Every time I think that I have it figured out, at least a little, it takes a sharp turn in my head and runs a couple of red lights and stop signs in my heart.
Always thought I was stronger than this. What's worse is that I never knew that I was crazy. Oh, I knew that all my pals thought so but I just thought that they were tuned into a different station.
Yeah, I wait. Only because I can't seem to find an option. She tried to make it easy. Not for my sake. That's just the way she does it. What time is it now?
Funny, it's all coming back to me. Was I bopped on the noggin? Yeah, by Father Time, that old goat. There are no boundaries. Quote me. In the words of my beautiful friend, Rebekah, "I'm a geographer and shit."
All these concepts and rules, made up by folks with their own shortcomings, their own agendas. Does it sound like I'm preaching anarchy here? I'm not. I'm aware that Grover Norquist would come to my house and steal my wallet if he didn't have to face the law. Bad guys are just bad guys. Most bad folks figure out at an early age to seek power. That way you get to impose your own rules, your own boundaries. God is on our side. The meek shall not inherit the earth. That's a rumor that Grover and Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff cooked up when they roomed together in college.
Aunt Wilma had me color Hopalong's kerchief a bright chartreuse. She didn't scold me for coloring outside the lines, either. That was the best that I could do.
There are no borders. There are no lines. I don't begin where you end, we exist together.
Love. There's a concept that's real. I can get behind that one. Peace? That's the natural state of things. Take off your clothes and put 'em in the corner. Welcome to the Garden of Eden.
Well, I see in the obituaries in the New York Times today that my pal, Speedo, has passed away. A real hero. A real rock'n'roll star. I never saw the Cadillacs perform but they were always a big favorite of mine. Mostly because of Speedo. They were in a lot of the lower rung rock'n'roll movies. They were a visual act as well as a first rate harmony group. Of course their biggest hit was Speedoo and was penned the same day in 1955 that Earl Carroll was given the nickname that would stick for the rest of his life. Another generation would come to know the twist of the name after Paul Simon quoted the line, "They often call me Speedo but my real name is Mr. Earl."
The Cadillacs broke up after years of chart success and Speedo sang bass and played first clown with the Coasters for years until there was no audience left for their art.
In 1969 when Richard Nader put together the first rock'n'roll revival for Madison Square Garden it became obvious that there was a long line waiting to see the artists who had brought us the beauty and the joy of a lifetime.
Soon after we were touring with Nader's package of Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets, Bo Diddley, Gene Vincent and yep, the Coasters. Besides our set we backed up Chuck, Gene and the Coasters. What a dream.
On the second night in Orlando I was undressing for bed in my motel room when I heard a whisper in the hallway. "Duckbutter? Hey Duckbutter!"
I opened my door to find Speedo walking the halls trying to find any one of his new friends. He explained that the boys were having a little party down in one of their rooms and they thought that we might like to join in. Probably my proudest moment.
I got dressed and hurried with him back to the party. There, crammed into one small room was the entire group and three or four pretty young girls. White girls. It was several years before it occurred to me why the guys wanted us at the party.
After a short time it was fairly obvious that there would be no debauchery and no wild tales to tell later. I asked, "Speedo, are you hungry?"
"I'm so hungry if I put a biscuit on my head my tongue would beat my brains out," he replied. Most of everything he said sounded like a line from a Leiber and Stoller song.
We stumbled out to the elevator, somewhat impaired, and attempted to find something to sustain us. We went to our rooms hungry. God bless Speedo.
Woody wrote a lot of things that changed me and you. Changed the world. Problem is, somebody had already written some of them. That's okay. He borrowed from the Carter Family among others and they had taken them from somebody else.
Oh yeah, Chuck Berry invented rock'n'roll and he had songs ripped off by the Beatles and the Beach Boys among others, right? Well, yeah. Of course he had taken a truckload from one of his idols, Louis Jordan. Louis stole plenty, he said so. Chuck's first record, Maybelline, was a boogied up version of Bob Wills' Ida Red. To further complicate matters, Woody Guthrie recorded a version of Ida Red before Bob Wills did.
It's mirrors held up in front of mirrors from here on out. It's what Woody referred to as the "folk tradition."
Now when it comes to The Twist there are lots of stories. They don't all match up. Problem is lots of them came from Hank Ballard, himself. Hmm...
Hank frequently mentioned What'cah Gonna Do, the Drifters' hit, as an inspiration for the melody and the song structure. He also told the tale that Brother Joe Wallace from the gospel group, the Sensational Nightingales, had brought the original song idea to him and Cal Green, the Midnighters' guitarist. He always stuck to the idea that he had seen kids in Tampa dancing in a club and had asked a young girl in the crowd just what they were doing. "The Twist," she replied. None of the rest of it matters.
There are only so many notes and so many ideas. Help yourself, please.
Does it seem that sometimes sadness reaches all the way around the corner, like one of those little cartoon weiner dogs, and meets its other end, happiness? Songs play in my head that make me laugh and make me cry.
Maybe I should have reserved more room in my heart for joy. That way when sadness came calling it would have found no vacancy.
Oh, I have my happiness. I don't suppose I would trade my happy memories for anything. To have laughed as hard as I have, as often as I have, is worth several fortunes.
To those I have laughed with and those I have cried with and those that I have loved, thank you.
"There's a fire in my mind and I really cannot be confined here." I realize that I don't play to win. I play to play. Folks use other people; they tell them what they want to hear. I tend to say what's on my mind. Oh, I'm not bragging. It's cost me plenty. It just happens that there's not a car or a woman or a career out there to make me toe the line. Loser by choice, I suppose.
The flames of romance have singed my soul and I haven't missed much. I wish I could trade regrets for plastic beads, though. I never learn. Now I'm bragging!
Old men squabble and send young men to war. Greed, false pride and profit fuel the process. There are no good wars. There never have been. There never will be.
Plenty of folks out there are hungry. Share the love in your heart with someone who needs it. Take care of the planet. Adopt a stray. I don't mean to be bossy, I just want to remind you of your power. Love is the tool.
Too little ambition? Unmotivated slacker? A taker, not a maker, one of the 47% that Mitt worries about? Depends on who you ask, I suppose.
I've picked watermelons in the rain, scooped mud from the bottom of barges and checked the oil and water and washed the windshields.
The secret of life is that there is no secret. This is it. Me? I'm pretty sure that it's heaven. Oh, you can make it hell. I know. I have.
I just listened in on a conversation at the diner. The three yuppies were making homeless jokes. I'm not using the term, yuppie, in a derogatory fashion. I'm pretty sure that if I eavesdropped on a conversation with three homeless folks this morning that odds are good that there wouldn't be much praise of the yuppies.
We're all good people. Really good people. Some of us just need to exercise the heart muscle a little more. Oxygen for the lungs, love for the heart.
All of you who know me know that I'm never going to be rich. Not in money. That's good. I don't need anything. That dog doesn't need a new collar and I don't want to be playing with my i phone while someone is talking to me at the breakfast table.
Wherever I go I hear folks complaining about Thanksgiving and the obligations that the holiday brings. Usually the griping carries over into grumbles about Christmas music coming too early and the evils of Black Friday.
Now I don't like to miss a chance to carp. I can whine with the best of them. Somehow though, this year, I am almost overcome with love and gratitude and, yep, thanksgiving. I miss so many of the beautiful people who have passed through my life but somehow I'm focused on the wonderful memories of having shared parts of their lives. I love everyone I have ever known and I feel like I owe all of mankind something. A lot.
That doesn't cover it. All of the beautiful animals who have graced my life have provided enormous comfort and love for me, too. I owe them all something.
I'm gonna write you all some really pretty songs. Well, as pretty as I can write. Is this hokey? Yeah, you bet. Has the old fool lost what little mind he might ever have had? Who cares.
In my life, over the years, I have met a few individuals who radiated what seemed to be pure love. Tiny Tim was one. He spoke to me without any sign of irony or embarrassment of love and mothers and heaven. Keep in mind that our friendship was the fifteen minute type relationship and in a loud, crowded room, too. I never doubted the love or the sincerity, though. Real is real.
Every now and then Uncle Moss would take me and my cousin, Jimmy, with him to the Coffee Cup, his diner hangout. I was always impressed. All of the staff would always greet him by name, "How are you today, Mr. Moss? Always good to see you."
It surely wasn't the big tips that brought the recognition and respect. Uncle Moss was known for his frugal ways.
Now I've just walked home from the Grecian Island Restaurant right down the street. Three generations of them now call me by name. I don't like to brag.
Funny that I would use ironic in the title of this little rattle while I'm sitting here contemplating the use of irony in our hip culture. A piece in the New York Times set me off this time.
I mingled with hipsters last night until it got up close to my bedtime. Like the guy who wrote the article in the Times, I'm annoyed by the hipsters. At least he knows why he's annoyed. He considers them to be posers that remind him of himself. I suppose that maybe I see them appropriating and taking little artifacts and attitudes and fashions that have always set me apart from most of my friends. Funny, one of the first songs of mine to garner much airplay was "Too Hip For The Radio." Ironic.
I'm not hip and I never will be. Sometimes I use irony and sarcasm. I don't much approve of either one. Maybe if you're Dorothy Parker or Groucho Marx you can get away with it. I'd prefer to cause folks to consider peace and love with blinding sincerity. I like pie, too.
You can sense it out there. A great age is coming. I suppose that the equities and real estate markets may be ready to roar again but that's not what I'm thinking about. It seems that we inch forward in terms of evolution. I've been worried for some time now about the new nitwits. You know, the birthers, the climate deniers, the conspiratorialists, the bigots and the haters.
Now I've mentioned here before that I have no use for politics. Obama's not really my guy. He is, however, as close as it's gonna get to make me happy. I hold out for the day when love and books and health and peace make up our national priorities. I want to put folks to work patching up our rusting infrastructure and send aid to countries for medicine and education, not bombs and propaganda. When we give away love and peace we won't need propaganda.
Meantime, though, it occurs to me that we're not getting meaner and dumber. It just stands out more. Just as President Obama is here for a transition, so moves our society. The ignorance and the hate are rising to the top so that we can skim it as we find it.
Knowing that folks will look back and cry when they read about how we have mistreated and misunderstood women and gays and the disenfranchised; how we have crippled the environment and hurt animals; how we have neglected the weakest among us is sad and at the same time empowering.
Paint your masterpiece, compose your symphony, write your screenplay. It's coming. It's a slow train but it's coming. We'll do it all with love.
So far I have three kind offers for Thanksgiving. I'm well aware that sympathy is driving some of this. So what? I'm really lucky to have some folks around who think of me and my well being. Being alone beats sharing heartbreak with someone else.
I've just run across some old video footage of years past. As I add up loss and failure I'm reminded of how much I have loved and how thankful I am for the people who have come through my life. This will be my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my mom and, of course, that's a big deal. When I reminisce about the folks that I have chosen to be in my life I am grateful. I still love everyone that I have shared my life with. I am thankful for every beautiful person who has graced my path.
What keeps me from writing my masterpiece? How is it that Professor Einstein had time to pick up his dry cleaning and still come up with his special theory? Of course some will argue that he didn't give much thought to matching his socks or fixing his hair. Heck, I don't either.
At this point I can only hope to leave a body of work that explains who I was. It seems wildly conceited to think that anyone will ever care. Hmm.
Jamaica hears everything that rumbles in my head. I'm pretty sure it bores her to death. We just came back from a walk around the block. When the two neighbor cocker spaniels came out and we were face to face with them with twenty yards between us she bristled. These are the times when I'm assured that she's part Ridgeback.
They're snooty and she knows it. She doesn't much like their looks.
I explained that they're rich. Then I found myself bragging to her that we were rich, too. We have more butterflies. We do!
If I were commanded by the gods to describe the perfect life I suppose that I would describe mine. I play rock'n'roll for a living. I live with a dog who loves me in spite of my shortcomings. Maybe because of them. I do that living in a tropical jungle on an island. I'm not isolated, though. I'm five minutes from downtown and a two block stroll to my favorite bar. I don't have to get up in the morning. Well, I do, but only to please the cat, who I also love with all of my heart.
People are good to me. I mean really good. I don't know why. It's always been that way.
I don't have much money but I don't owe anybody any money. Doesn't matter. I'd trade the family cow for magic beans any way.
Failure has interrupted the flow from time to time but I guess that's how you learn. I don't like broken hearts but then I didn't much like breaking my arm or my nose, either. I hope that I haven't hurt anyone else too much.
You end up with regrets about squandered youth. Pretty sure that I would just squander it again. I'm squandering old age now and enjoying it.
Pray for peace and search for truth. It's out there. Do all your fighting with love as your weapon.
On Christmas day in Birmingham I would get in the back of Uncle Moss's car and ride to their house to celebrate the day. As we rode through Niggertown the high pitched whine of skate wheels on the pavement was wild and it was loud. All the little white kids had gotten new bikes. None of the African American children came from families that could afford any such luxury. There seemed to be no shame and no irony in the concept of the name of area.
Willie had come out of that culture, a superior athlete, a model citizen.
I was always for the indians over the cowboys. Raised by women, I will always be aware of the superiority over men. Of course John Lennon's "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World" reminds me that he was also raised by women.
It seems that the things that matter most to me always come from the disadvantaged. I will fight for the rights of the underdog with all the love that I can muster for all of my life.
Poor old Townes. You always see his quote, "There are only two kinds of music: the blues and zippity doo dah."
Well, it turns out I agree completely. I don't know if I agree with his sentiment. I agree with the quote. Everyone took him to mean that if it's good, it's some form of the blues. If it's not, it's just some attempt at commercial crap.
I love Song Of The South. I loved it as a kid and I love it more now. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah is all that's good and all that's right on this earth. I'm crazy about what Phil Spector did with Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans in the studio with that wonderful anthem to happiness, too.
Nothing I'd like more than to sing with all the joy in my heart to make my living and make my way. It flows every now and then. Not often. Not much.
There's the light and there's the dark. I've got my heart set on one but I seem to be heavily invested in the other.
If I could accept things as they are life would get easy, right? I suppose I'm one of those fools who misses out on plenty while I'm distracted worrying about what might have been.
There's always something tumbling out of my mouth or finding its way into a song about war and peace or saving the world. Put me alone in the woods for an hour and it's all about me and my poor old broken heart. Now, I don't feel sorry for myself and there's not much that I would do differently if I could. It's just that I want my way. I want everyone to think right. That is, think like I do. I want to be loved. A lot. I believe that we should be kind and I don't see why we need to wear these clothes. I guess you could say I'm spoiled but I have good intentions. By my standards, that is. By my standards, though, we wouldn't have war and the world wouldn't need saving.
To quote myself quoting someone else, "She said she wasn't who I thought she was." Probably true.
After all the boasting that I've done about being completely transparent, with no secrets, I come before you today with a new mystique. I'm afraid that I have found my own Mrs. Calabash. I live in my heart and in my head. I've spent the last couple of years trying to climb out but I suppose I've gotten comfortable here. I'll hunker down. I'll take no questions.
Seems I'm substituting for my pal, Clark today so I'll save my whining and preaching 'til tomorrow. I'm playing records on the radio in the morning and playing music tomorrow night. I'm a lucky man and I know it. I've pried my heart wide open and I love everybody. Yeah, everybody.
Just spent the last week with the sweetest, most generous folks on the planet. Southern hospitality was never a myth and it's not gone from the planet. My friend says that half an hour before I got in from the airport that Jamaica began to go crazy. How do they know? Who cares.
Friends and music and dogs. What a life!
Oh yeah, cats, too. I'm pretty sure that Angel was glad to see me but she wouldn't want it to show.
Off to the airport. Lexington tonight and Knoxville on Monday. Can't wait. Folks I'm dying to see. Stories and songs backed up. I just hope Jamaica won't miss me as much as I'll miss her. Don't wait up for me. I'll write next week.
You know Einstein pointed out to us lots of things that are obvious once they were pointed out. I suppose that's why he's the genius. He reminded us that the purpose of time was to keep everything from happening at once. Who needs LSD?
Do you remember the first time that you ever heard "What'd I Say?" I guess we know why they called Ray Charles "The Genius,"too.